Friday, July 25, 2008

“Can’t I Just Learn From Jesus Directly?”

Ben's Bible study group has been arguing. “Everyone is an expert!” he complains. So he asks, "Can't I just learn from Jesus directly? You know, just the Bible, the Spirit, and me?"

We can learn from Jesus directly! Jesus is alive, and has sent His Holy Spirit. For born again followers of Christ, Jesus promised that He would send the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth. (John 16:12)

The Bible is also important for "learning" about God and about mankind, and about how we to live the life God expects for us. The scriptures are God's "Logos." That is, it is His word that we can see. When the Spirit of God speaks to us, it is by the “Rhema” of God, or the word that is breathed by God’s Spirit. We need both types of God’s word. The Scriptures are an anchor and guideline, so that when we are hearing spiritually, we can better discern what God is saying to us.

"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."
2 Timothy 3:16

But "my Bible, my Jesus, and me,” really isn’t enough.” In order to learn directly from Jesus there is one missing ingredient. Obedience! When Jesus invites us to "learn from" Himself He isn't just talking about gaining information. Jesus says:

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
Matthew 11:28-30

Today’s society thinks of learning, as something cognitive, academic or philosophical. Today kids may have to write book reports on Harry Potter, but their educated predecessors studied Greek thought. We value thinking. We value studying! Got a problem? Here’s a book! Need to learn something? Take a class! God's not so into academics as we are. People only learn directly from God when they choose to obey Him.

Jesus calls us to put on His yoke. By following Him that day, folk learned about God’s heart for the Sabbath: about the value of people, important lessons in spiritual warfare, and Jesus even revealed some future plans. They learned that obedience was key. Jesus said, pointing to those following Him:

"Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven are my brother and sister and mother."
Matthew 12:50

We so value academic learning, that we often undervalue faith. It’s by doing what the Lord is telling us to do, without yet knowing the results, that we begin learning from God. First we choose to obey, and then we start learning. Someone said to me, “I read the Bible cover to cover, and it did nothing for me!” They must’ve missed where Jesus says:

“If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.”
John 7:17


Nutshell: In earthly education systems, we learn first and then we take our test. In God’s school, we must take the test first, and then the learning begins.

The test is whether will we obey or not. Choose to do first, find out (learn) as a result. It is about faith. The Lord said to Abram:

“Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.”

Genesis 12:1

By obeying God (leaving), Abraham discovered what God had for him. Because God lives, learning of Him is relational. It isn’t just the study of Him, but relating rightly with Him that leads to learning. The test asks us, “Is He your Lord?”

In China God told me to start praying for people’s healing. It was something I had been neglecting and hesitant to do. I said “Yes Lord.” And then the learning began.

First I learned why I had neglected such prayer. I was afraid of looking bad. I’d been talking Jesus up for years! But I can’t control God, and what if I prayed and nothing happened? I’d look bad! That wasn’t fun to learn. I had pride to kill.

I learned that God was not telling me to heal people, but only to lay hands and pray. Results were up to Him. Once I said yes, it was amazing how many people were sneezing on me, coughing around me, limping towards me! People told me of their many ailments. I would offer to pray for them right then and there.

I learned that prayer opens hearts. Not one person got upset at my praying in Jesus’ name or the results. In fact, several asked me for Bibles afterwards. One man, who’d refused a Bible the year prior, now asked for one.

I learned not to try and interpret results. This was my favorite lesson learned! Mr. Zhang was a Communist Party Leader at our school. We were very friendly. But we were cautious around him too. We could be deported for Christian activity.

One day I walked into his office to get our mail, and saw him soaking a bloody foot. He’d stepped on a rusty nail, and the clinic was closed for the weekend. Concerned, I said, “If that nail was rusty, you need a tetanus shot, or you’ll get lock jaw and die!” I know, just call me: “The Voice of Hope!” Immediately, I was reminded to pray. Now in the habit, I asked Mr. Zhang if I could pray for him in Jesus’ name, explaining to him what the Bible says about prayer. Mr. Zhang said, “It’s okay.” And so I started to pray.

I lifted his bloody foot, and with both hands on it, I prayed for healing. Praying wasn’t easy. My mind wandered. “What am I doing? We are going to be deported!” Then I thought of how special the Zhang family was to ours and I really didn’t want him getting lockjaw, “and so could You please heal his foot Lord!” Yikes! And then I remembered that when Mr. Zhang says, “It’s okay,” in English, he really means, “No thank you.” Too late! I was praying! Focusing, I prayed more fervently, and a bit longer than usual.

After saying “amen,” I opened my eyes and looked up at Mr. Zhang. His eyes were tearing up, and his lower lip was sort of quivering. Moved at the sight, I thanked God in my heart for this moment. And then Mr. Zhang said something to me that I don’t think I will ever forget. He said in a rather affected voice, “Tom, you are squeezing my foot!”

Horrified, I can’t remember how I got out of that office, but I forgot my mail. For two days, I wondered if I should pack or pray. I prayed. Ann was no help cause when I would bring it up, it would just get her laughing again.

Finally, I saw Mr. Zhang on campus, smiling and waving me over. He wasn’t angry! As I came over, he pointed to his foot and limped in a circle, smiling. Very funny! He shook my hand and said, “Tom, thank you so much for praying! After you prayed, the pain was so bad, that I was carried home.” I knew a punch line was coming. He continued, “When I got home that night, the pain was unbearable and the swelling increased. Then my foot was turning colors!” I felt like rolling my eyes, but didn't. He continued, “So in agony, I was rushed to an emergency clinic, and when I told them about the rusty nail, they got angry at me for waiting, gave me a shot, and squeezed out all this junk.” Smiling still. And then Mr. Zhang floored me saying, “So Tom, thank you so much for praying! I might have died!”

He was being serious! He credited prayer! Was that a healing? Not according to me it wasn’t! I felt like such a foreigner! Between Mr. Zhang and God, something happened there. It was nothing I would write home about. But God got glory from Mr. Zhang, and a confused smile from me. I learned something huge that day! Since then, I can much better leave results to God. I prayed for a foot, and God showed Mr. Zhang that He was real!

You don’t learn this from books. Just say, “yes, Lord!” Obey Him! And let the learning begin!

God has led Ben back into fellowship. All of us members of His body, Jesus intends that we each use our gifts to build one another’s faith. But that’s for another day.

When Peter and John were arrested, the authorities looked at them and "they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men." They were astonished and “took note that these men had been with Jesus.” Well, they weren’t just “with” Jesus. They obeyed Him! They followed His lead! When ordered to stop teaching about Jesus, Peter and John said:

“Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God.”
Acts 4:19

Obeying God made them learned men.